Tulips were brought from Turkey to other European countries 300 years ago, eventually making their way to Holland. There, gardeners bred, hybridized and altered the tulip to include a wide range of characteristics. Today there are tulips in practically every color. Tulips bloom in the spring from bulbs planted in October and November. They do best when planted climates with long winters.
Buy only bulbs from cultivated stock. Wild bulbs should be avoided to maintain their presence in nature, according to "The Encyclopedia of Gardening" by the American Horticultural Society. Buy tulip bulbs in the fall, right before they are planted. Pick bulbs that are firm with strong growing points. Avoid bulbs that are soft, split or are damaged by insects. Compare the size of bulbs and avoid smaller bulbs if you want flowers the first year.
Choose a sunny location for the tulips. Dig a flat hole large enough in which to place several randomly placed bulbs. Add organic matter and fertilizer to the planting hole if the soil is poor, according to the "Michigan Gardener's Guide," by Timothy Boland, Marty Hair and Laura Coit. Tulip bulbs are particularly susceptible to rotting. If the soil is heavy and holds water, mix sharp sand into the planting holes to improve drainage. Leave a space between bulbs half the distance of their mature height, although the bulbs can planted as close as a third of the distance.
Care for Established Tulips
Once tulips have been planted, they will grow for several years with very little attention, according to the "Reader's Digest The Illustrated Guide to Gardening." Remove any weeds by hand. Do not use weed killer. Water during dry spells. Tulips are susceptible to tulip fire, a fungal infection. To prevent tulip fire, deadhead, which means removing spent flowers, after the plants finish flowering by cutting off the flower head only. The stems and bulb are needed by the plant for nourishment.